The next document in the story of the Slovak deportations is this lengthy report from Giuseppe Burzio to Cardinal Maglione. Burzio was in a rush to get the report written and sent to Rome. At the end he says that he has not had time to finish it before he needed to send it. The report is telling for a number of reasons. Burzio's information reveals he was well-informed. His knowledge of the political intrigues of some of Tiso's colleagues, Alexander Mach and Vojtech Tuka, was significant.
Reference: Rap nr 848 (AES 2752/42, orig)
Location and date: Pressburg (Bratislava) 31.03.1942
Summary statement: The deportation of the Slovak Jews commenced and was conducted with great brutality. The government refers to an agreement with the Church. The attitude of some clerics is questionable; Tiso grows weaker.
As mentioned, I had the honour to report to Your Eminence, that the Slovak government decided to deport all Jews (1); operations began on 25 March 1942 and are conducted with great brutality.
The deportation plan was drafted in secret, and in agreement with the German authorities, but it would be impossible to keep the immediate preparations hidden since the beginning of March the government’s intentions were leaked and even the date of the planned deportation was known.
In the face of public reaction and following various actions and appeals, including the Slovak bishops, the government finally felt compelled to make a statement. This came from the mouth of Alexander Mach, Minister of the Interior and Vice-President of the Council, before representatives of the Slovak and foreign press on 27 March 1942. I have enclosed the text of the declaration, which was sent to the Slovak press agency. (2)
With this declaration, the Slovak government assumes before the world, full responsibility for it actions and expressly proclaims that there was no pressure whatsoever on the part of Germany. The Minister of the Interior, with brazen cynicism and contrary to the truth of facts that are known by all, says that the current measures are legitimate, are not carried out in an inhuman manner, and are not contrary to natural law.
With deliberate falsehood, Minister Mach, casting disorientation and confusion in the conscience of the people, and seeking to undermine the Church stated: “At the sitting of the State Council yesterday, I am convinced based on what I have heard from those most responsible in the matter, that Church authorities are in agreement with the processes of the government has undertake on the question of the exclusion of Jews from Slovak life.”
I am not able to say that the attitude of all the bishops was both spontaneous and energetic, but Minister Mach knew that the episcopate had filed an appeal to the government to deplore and condemn the measures planned against the Jews. It seems, however, that the Minister has had, if not a reason, then a pretext for such an announcement, founded on the attitude of Bishop Scepusio [Spis] (Ján Vojtasšak 1877-1965), who, as Your Eminence well knows, is a member, and even a Vice-President of the Council of State. I was told that during the session, when the deportation of the Jews was discussed, Bishop Vojtasšak, rather than protest against the inhuman project, would keep a totally passive position, limiting his objections to minor things. Later, when speaking to another bishop, he let it be understood that, in his opinion, it would be better if Church authorities remained outside this question, so as to not create obstacles for the government and President of the Republic, that the Jews are the worst enemies of Slovakia, and that things were better left to follow their course … and so on.
It is difficult to know the truth about what was said and done at the Council of State; I know that Bishop Vojtasšak is very chauvinistic; for my part I am convinced of this, because once I was speaking with him on behalf of Archbishop [Adam] Sapieha [of Krakow] for some Polish priests whom he had expelled from their parishes, he responded to me: “our humanity (to those priests) is that they are wild beasts”. You can not expect him to have greater concern for the Jews.
The position of Bishop [Jozef] Čárský (3) is clearer and, I would say, prophetic, who wrote to his colleague on the need to take a resolute attitude. He concluded: “if we remain passive now that they abduct the daughters of the Jews, what we will do when they take the daughters of our own people?” The fact is that Catholics are waiting for a clear word from their pastors, especially after the statement of Minister Mach.
Meanwhile, it is clear that the position of Dr Tiso, head of state, the bishop of Scepusio [Spis] and other clerics and members of the Council of State and the parliament, is beginning to be a cause for serious concern for the Church. Recent events shows President Tiso put in a corner, and the true masters of Slovakia, after the Germans, are the Prime Minister, Dr Tuka, and the Minister of the Interior, Mach. The first is called “man-sphinx”, since no one knows what exactly his purposes are; the men of the Hlinka Party and particularly Tiso accuse him of scheming, especially after Colonel [Anton] Snacký (until recently, military attaché at the Slovak Legation to the Quirinale, Italy), a friend and prison companion of Dr Tuka, who has fled to Budapest and put himself at the disposal of the Hungarian government.
Mach is a man full of ambition, willing to do anything for the Germans. He aspires to the Presidency of the Council with Dr Tuka as well as aspirations to become President of the Republic. Both are opposed to Tiso and are trying to make his position untenable. This also serves to explain their persistence in bring the ultimate persecution of the Jews. The Germans are delighted: they leave Tiso in place for his popularity and for their propaganda purposes abroad and at the same time give all their support to Tuka and Mach hoping their zealots will execute their orders.
From the evidence I have, I am inclined to believe that Dr Tiso would like to get out of this thankless situation, perhaps with a dramatic gesture, to save his honour as well as that of the Hlinka Party and Slovakia. But his supporters and friends distract him and say that the slogan should be “do not be provoked”. But perhaps they do not understand that, with this behaviour, they favour the opponent’s strategy, which being unscrupulous, will equally lead to the fulfilment of their ambitions and will, at the opportune moment, do away with Tiso and his friends.
I said earlier that the measures carried out against the Jews are done most brutally. As regards the treatment meted out to the Jewish girls, I have from reliable information told that they are forcibly torn from their families – (the raids, which commenced on the 25 March and continue every night, are carried out by the police and militia of the Hlinka Guard) – and held in a local building called “Patronka”, which is on the outskirts of Bratislava. Here they are subjected to searches. They are stripped of each object they carry with them (suitcases, bags, rings, earrings, pens, food, in short, everything), their private and personal documents are marked by a simple serial number. If any of them protest, complain or ask to keep some small family heirloom, they were brutally beaten and kicked. All this must be done by wicked men of the lowest character, under the direction of an inspector who has come from the Reich.
The unfortunates are then forced into the building, thrown on little straw mattresses, receive nothing to eat, and wait their turn to be loaded onto cattle cars that will carry them to the German border. Several trains have already left. This is what happens in Bratislava; news from the provinces is different, and you already know of Catholic girls who have suffered the same fate.
All this indicates that you must take into account the statements made by Minister Mach. The rest no one pays any attention to and believes that those poor girls are destined for prostitution or simply to be massacred.
Minister Sidor returns to Rome tomorrow, and I have to leave this report incomplete in order to make time to send it.
Note by Tardini: 10.04.1943. Seen by the Holy Father.
(1) ADSS 8.298, 326.
(2) Not published.
(3) Jozef Čárský, 1886-1962, Auxiliary Bishop of Košice 1925-1962.
|Ján Vojtasšak 1877-1965|
|Jozef Čárský, 1886-1962|